On Saturday, February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry minutes before its scheduled landing in Florida after a 16-day scientific mission in outer space.
Two members of Columbia’s seven-person crew, Rick Husband and Michael Anderson, were outspoken Christians.
It is a tradition that after the astronauts suit up, they walk down a hallway and then open a door to “face the press!”
Rick stopped the crew before they opened the door and said he wanted to pray for them. An attending technician would say that in all his years he had never heard of a captain praying for and with his crew.
Captain Kent Rominger, a friend and colleague of the Columbia crew, relayed that the night before Columbia launched, Rick Husband gathered the crew and their spouses together for prayer. He recited from memory the following verses from the first chapter of Joshua.
Be strong and courageous because you will lead these people to inherit the land, I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous… Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:6-9)
To open our worship today, I want to offer the prayer given by Captain Gene Theriot, U.S. Navy Chaplain who conducted their memorial service.
Almighty Father strong to save, thank you for honoring us with your presence at this celebration of remembrance. To know you in times of joy and success is a wonderful blessing for which we are truly grateful. Yet to experience you in times of tragedy and sorrow, to experience you when everything goes wrong and all our best efforts are not enough, to experience you then is to us life and our only reliable hope.” Amen.
Sometimes giving isn’t about money.
When Pat Tillman arrived at Arizona State as a freshman in 1994, he landed the school’s last remaining football scholarship. By the time Pat graduated summa cum laude from ASU, Tillman was named the Pac-10’s Conference Defensive Player of the Year and chosen by the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 NFL draft.
Five months later, in spite of his undersized 5’11” 200 pound frame, he was Arizona’s starting strong safety. In his third season Pat set a franchise record with 224 tackles. In 2001 he was offered a $9 million five-year offer by the Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams, but Pat declined the offer out of loyalty to the team that had drafted him.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the 25-year old superstar began to evaluate his priorities. In the spring of 2002, after returning from his honeymoon, Pat announced his decision to leave the team after only four seasons even though it meant turning down a three-year, $3.6 million contract.
Tillman felt called to lay aside his privileged life in order to defend the country that had allowed it. In May 2002 Pat enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Ranger and following basic training was deployed in the Persian Gulf. He went from millionaire to an annual salary of $18,000.
On Thursday, April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan after a firefight about 25 miles southwest of a U.S. military base at Khost.
Where do we get such men and women of courage who will take less but are willing to give everything in the service of their country?
We thank you for your gift this morning but we pray that you will find the courage to give of yourself this week to those who will need it.
Prayer for the Offering:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s a favorite question we enjoy asking children.
And the answers we get usually are “a police officer” or “a nurse” or maybe “a fire fighter.” Some kids are visionary. They answer, “a movie star” or “a singer” or “a doctor” or “a professional ball player.”
I love the boy that said he wanted to be either a car mechanic or a garbage collector. When asked why, he gave the classic answer for a nine-year-old: “So I can get dirty!”
Let’s take that same question and ask it another way.
Let’s imagine someone asking Jesus Christ what He wants us to be when we grow up. Suddenly, it’s a whole new question. What do think He would say. I believe He would have said, “I to be a servant.”
In all my life, I cannot recall anybody ever saying that they wanted to be a servant when they grew up.
But Jesus did and we break bread this morning to remind us of the price a servant has to pay. Jesus got dirty so that we can be clean.
Prayer for the Bread:
Each drop of human blood contains over 5 million red cells … In an average lifetime, a person’s red cells arranged in single file would reach from the earth to the sun and back five times!
Our bodies contain approximately 60,000 miles of blood vessels … Through this delivery system, blood provides everything our cells need to live, and they take away waste that would poison us.
At the cellular level, capillaries are so small that they are about the size of a single red blood cell … To connect with all the cells in the body, capillary walls cover an area of about 70,000 square feet.
Every day, the heart beats 100,000 times, and over an average lifespan, this amazing machine beats 2.5 billion times, pumping 60 million gallons of blood. During this time, the heart never takes time off. We can’t afford for it to take a break—even a few minutes without blood supply causes severe brain damage or death.
Virtually all other cells in the human body are stationary, but blood is mobile tissue, carrying nutrients to every part of the body … protecting us from harm and healing our wounds.
No wonder the Old Testament says that “The life of every creature is its blood” (Lev. 17:14). The cup we take today represents that blood of Christ that flows through our spiritual veins, protecting us from harm and healing our wounds. Remember, your eternal life is in that cup.
Prayer for the Cup:
Children’s Hero Verse
“Peace of mind means a healthy body. But jealousy will rot your bones”.
Sometimes it seems mom and dad may favor a brother or sister more than you. In that moment, you feel jealousy. Jealousy is wanting for yourself what belongs to someone else.
Years ago, a son named Joseph was loved by his father but hated by his brothers. They even thought to kill him but sold him a slave instead.
Be a Hero
Stamp out jealousy before it starts. Instead of thinking about what you don’t have, think of all you do have. Then think of all you can share because a grateful heart stops jealousy in its tracks!
As the book of Joshua opens, the people of Israel are at a key transition point as they begin to consider life without the only leader they have ever had.
Moses’ has died and now Joshua is their leader and taking the promised land lay before them.
These nomad people were about to take on a number of different peoples, organized in city-states and many of the cities were protected by massive walls.
Those people were used to war, and some maintained war chariots, the tanks of the ancient world. Though the city-states were independent, and had often warred with each other, yet cities in the north and south united to resist their common enemy, which this time would be the Israelites.
Joshua had been the aide of Moses from the beginning, but he also had led Israel’s army from the beginning (cf. Ex. 17:9–13), a fact that has led some to suppose that Joshua had served as an officer in the Egyptian army.
So, Joshua’s credentials, both as a military and spiritual leader, were impeccable.
We don’t think about it much, but leaders don’t lead forever, even godly leaders like Moses.
We experience such a loss in our lives when a grandparent or parent passes from our lives. They were our source of inspiration and love.
Yet there comes a time, when God calls for a new beginning with a new generation and new leadership.
As one Christian put it, “God buries His workmen, but His work goes on.” It was God who had chosen Joshua, and everybody in Israel knew that he was to be their new leader.
Joshua was clearly the best choice. For forty years, Joshua had been Moses’ minister (servant). He had fought the Amalekites at Rephidim, Exo. 14:9; he had ascended Mt. Sinai with Moses, Exo. 19:24; he had protected Moses’ honor at Taberah, Num. 11:24–30; he had given an optimistic report to the Israelites on his return from his spy-mission to Canaan, Num, 14:6, 10; and he had been publicly chosen by God and charged as Moses’ successor on the plains of Moab just before Moses’ death, Deut. 31:7, 8.
In all the wilderness rebellions of the children of Israel (which were too many), Joshua remained faithful to God and to Moses. Never once did he object to Moses but did all that he asked.
In a monastery kitchen, there hangs a sign over the kitchen sink which reads: “Divine service is conducted here three times daily.” The motto is true, and great men and women are prepared by faithfulness to the small things.
Because of his faithfulness in small things, God, upon Moses’ death, promoted him to the stewardship of larger things.
Joshua’s character would reveal itself over and over. Just read his book.
He understood the secret of all labor for the Lord. The important thing is not the servant but the Master.
But remember that Joshua had an advantage. Joshua had served under Moses. He observed both that humble man’s commitment to the Lord, and God’s commitment to Moses.
So, when God promised, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you,” it made perfect sense.
Yet there is one thing that God keeps saying to Joshua over and over. Be strong and courageous.
Obviously, if there was a weakness in Joshua, this was it. God knew he needed such words because even great leaders like Joshua need encouragement.
Three times God repeated the command: “Be strong and courageous” (1:6, 7, 9).
Then God backed it all up with this promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (1:5).
So, for you and I who try in our small way to serve the same great God, there are some lessons offered here about God’s plans and us.
God’s plans are not dependent on us.
When Moses dies, He has Joshua ready. Their halt in the plains of Moab was not hesitancy, but a matter of decency.
Joshua was more than prepared. Working with Moses had made him familiar with God’s way and will.
There was no question, with either Joshua or the people, who was to succeed Moses and from that Providence we learn—
That no one man is absolutely necessary to God.
That God personally ensures that the work of the godly men and women is not lost or forgotten.
Why? Because he who labors for God’s purpose, is working for the eternal.
God’s plans are, sometimes, best advanced by the removal of men who have been most useful.
Now this may sound counterintuitive but remember.
God had decided that Moses was not to enter the promised land for a sin at Meribah, so no advance could be made while he lived as their leader. He literally barred the way.
More than that, Moses was not their man for the future. He had been the best man for the past but those days were gone.
Moses was best to stand before Pharaoh, Joshua was best to stand before the Canaanites. Moses was fittest for the sea and the wilderness, Joshua for the fortified cities. Moses was the right man to lead the people out from slavery in Egypt; Joshua was the best to lead them into life as a God’s people.
The history of the faith has made it clear to all.
To die in the midst of your work is not to have lived in vain. You make way for others. No greater wish has any preacher than to cross over with the Lord’s work still on his hands.
Amazingly, God’s plan sometimes shows the inferior man succeeding where the more eminent man has failed.
We do not always know what or who is most helpful to success. The truth is that we often fail to recognize success when it does come.
So work, whoever you are.
You may not be as Moses, who was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and trained for forty years at the back of the desert.
You may be only as Joshua, who was simply a liberated slave, but remember, you may succeed where better men fail.
Remember, God’s plan in all its parts, have their highest value not to one man, or two, but to men at large.
This is no contest of Moses versus Joshua. The land was for Israel, God’s gift to the nation. The honor of Moses, and the prestige of Joshua, were but tools to make that happen.
God’s gifts bless all people. It was for the welfare of generations to come that these Canaanites should be rooted out.
A nation that worshiped God, and made way for the Savior, was to be planted there instead.
There is no shame in saying that Moses was not essential to lead the children of Israel into the land.
In one way, he could not bring them into the Land of Promise. Moses represented the Law, and the Law cannot save us. The Law is a revealer and not a redeemer. It shows us that we are sinners.
The Law has always needed a savior, since the Law could only reveal that we have fallen short of the glory of God.
God’s call to courage was no small thing for Joshua or us. Consider these words of a veteran.
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live, taking the form of a readiness to die.
“He that will lose his life, the same shall save it” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or soldiers.
That paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of a quiet, brutal courage. A soldier may save his life only if he will risk it.
He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying.
He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for that would be suicide, and he will not escape.
He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.
May God grant us such men and women of courage.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the Law My servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go” (Josh. 1:7).